It was my neighbour’s daughter who told me.
About how the older girls had hung tampons
on a willow tree near the school gate,
some slick with dark blood and tissue,
others with the palest pink shredded cotton.
It was, she said, a rite of passage.
That the girls would become women
when they could make their own offering.
That they were reclaiming menarche
from generations of secrecy and stigma.
Boys had looked on in horror, she said.
Had shouted red rag from across the yard
and then dared one another to touch the blood;
to remove the tampons and throw them around.
That’s when the teacher had appeared.
I felt a twinge of sadness when she told me.
About how my need for tampons had passed.
That fertility had been wasted on me
and that the only rite of passage left
was from spinster to thornback to crone.
Wolfpack Contributor: Susan DarlingtonA Poetry Showcase by Susan Darlington
Susan Darlington’s poetry regularly explores the female experience through nature-based symbolism and stories of transformation. It has been published in Nymphs, Dreich, Dream Catcher, Anti-Heroin Chic, Hedgehog Press, and Ethel Zine among others. She has two books available: ‘Traumatropic Heart’ (Selcouth Station, 2021) and ‘Under The Devil’s Moon’ (Penniless Press Publications, 2015). A third book is due to be published in 2022 (’Never Wear White’, Alien Buddha Press, TBC). Follow her at @S_sanDarlington
The seed’s journey ended
in the crook of my spine.
It sent down thin white roots
that blindly tapped for purchase.
Dug deeper into bone; my back twisting
while the sapling grew tall and straight.
A goldfinch landed in the canopy
with sunshine held in its beak.
I offered it shelter. It offered me light.
Fed me rays of yellow blossom.
When it flew away my vertebrae
crumbled. My spine was felled.
Empty leaves rustled in my out-breath;
a green sea that spilled into my body
and washed it away on the next tide.
(With reference to Heavens To Betsy’s “My Red Self”)
It was the summer
we made a pinkie promise
to always be sisters.
Afternoons spent locked
in our bedrooms, we bloomed
from schoolgirls into goddesses
with our knee-high socks,
and thick gloops of lipstick
in the darkest plums and reds.
It was the colour of menstrual blood.
It was the colour of power.
We used it to write
‘slut’ down our arms
and ‘witch’ across our bellies.
Marvelled at how liberated
we were as we sang
to our favourite records.
“Never wear white/
Or your shame will creep thru.”
Knowing that in those vinyl grooves
there was the possibility of change.
At Six Weeks...
your cells would have divided,
multiplied and bloomed like algae
in the secrecy of your dark pond.
Its fluid would have rippled
to the pounding katoosh, katoosh
of your pearl of a heart;
sloshed as you squirmed,
flicked your amphibious tail
out of the shallows too soon
- impatient to take a gulp of air -
and swam into my heart’s roar
as it divided in two.
The meadow’s been razed.
Its cloud of oxeye daisies
gathers in a carbon storm
that floods out the city
where roadside cornflowers
bow their heads in sleep
as gravel nights descend
and a single red poppy
cries its bloodied petals
over what has been lost.
Bio: Susan Darlington’s poetry regularly explores the female experience through nature-based symbolism and stories of transformation. It has been published in Dreich, Anti-Heroin Chic, Dream Catcher, and One Hand Clapping among others. Her chapbook ‘Traumatropic Heart’ is upcoming from Selcouth Station and her collection ‘Under The Devil’s Moon’ is available from Penniless Press. Follow her @S_sanDarlington
Wolfpack Contributor: Susan Darlington